One of the country’s most famous and scenic walks which drew visitors from home and abroad has been permanently shut following an alleged assault on the landowner.
Pat Dunne, who owns the land along the Zig-Zag walking track in Glenmalure, Co Wicklow has decided to shut it down following the incident last Sunday.
The popular route, which is enjoyed by thousands of people and located entirely on private lands, provided access from the base of Carrawaystick Waterfall towards Lugnaquilla which is Wicklow’s highest mountain.
The Zig-Zags was an ‘agreed access route’, facilitated through a formal Permissive Access Agreement between Mr Dunne and County Wicklow Partnership.
First developed in 2007, Mr Dunne was one of the first landowners in the country to permit an agreed access route across his lands.
However, following an incident with a hiker, the Dunne family have taken the decision to close public access with immediate effect.
Speaking about the closure, Mr Dunne said: “I want it known that for the last 16 years we have permitted open access to Lugnaquilla via the Zig Zags. The track and open mountain lands immediately above are private property.
"The only request in return for open access to our land was that no dogs were brought onto the mountain due to the disturbance they can cause to livestock. It is not an unreasonable request as we have had many instances of sheep being mauled by dogs on the mountain.”
He continued: “However, over the years we have had many instances of verbal abuse with people as they ignored signage asking that dogs were not brought onto our lands. In one case this even resulted in a threat that our house ‘would be burnt down’.
"The final straw came on Sunday at 11.10am when after repeatedly asking a man and a youth accompanying him to not bring their three dogs onto the track, he physically assaulted me, knocking me to the ground, before continuing up the mountain with the dogs.
“It is because of this that we have decided to revoke the permissive access agreement and close the trail to the public with immediate effect.”
Gardaí have said they are aware of the incident and no one has been charged as of yet.
The remote valley is the longest of its kind in Ireland and Britain and provides a large amount of walking and hiking trails.
County Wicklow Partnership Rural Recreation Officer Aaron Byrne said they completely support the Dunne family in their decision.
“The success of the walks scheme and access routes are evident all over the country and that’s based on cooperation between landowners and recreational users. The actions of this particular individual are completely unacceptable.
“The closure of the trail will come as a huge blow to all the recreational users who benefitted from the goodwill of the Dunne family and enjoyed access to the mountains through their lands”.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have said the incident was "disgraceful", adding it "is a serious setback for the relationship between landowners and recreational users".
(IFA) President Tim Cullinan said: "Nobody can blame the farmer in question for closing off access when he’s subject to this kind of behaviour."